Keith Duncan had a busy Saturday, attempting an Iowa single-game record six field goals in Iowa's 19-10 win over Illinois. He made four of those tries, accounting for two-thirds of Iowa's points in the win. But that sort of workload isn't anything new for our man Keith, either. It was the third time this season that Duncan has attempted at least four field goals and he's tried three or more field goals in 8 of Iowa's 11 games. His 32 attempts not only lead the nation -- they're four more tries than any other field goal kicker has even attempted. Duncan's 27 made field goals are also four more than any other kicker has completed. Duncan's right leg has been hugely productive this season and is a major reason Iowa has a shot at winning 10 games.
So it does not come as much of a surprise that Duncan was named one of the three finalists for the Lou Groza Award, given annually to the best kicker in college football:
The other two finalists for the Groza are Georgia's Rodrigo Blankenship and Washington State's Blake Mazza. Blankenship has made 23/26 field goal attempts this season and 36/36 extra points. Mazza has made 18/19 field goal tries and 51/53 extra point attempts. Here's how they compare in terms of distance:
|PLAYER||FG 1-19||FG 20-29||FG 30-39||FG 40-49||FG 50+||FG TOT|
Blankenship looks like Duncan's main challenger for the award. He has some name value, having been the starting kicker for a high-profile Georgia team for several years. He also plays on a better team (Georgia is the SEC East champion and currently #4 in the CFP rankings). And he's been better from distance, making 7/9 40-49 yard tries (versus 12/16 completions from that distance for Duncan), as well as 3/4 50+ yard attempts (Duncan has attempted no 50+ yard field goal tries). Either would be a very deserving winner, although naturally we're rooting hard for Duncan.
In addition to being named a Groza finalist, Duncan also earned plaudits from the Big Ten after his prolific efforts in helping Iowa beat Illinois last Saturday:
In addition to making four field goals and scoring 13 of Iowa's 19 points, Duncan's four field goals also gave him 27 for the season, which broke the Big Ten single-season record, with one game remaining. This was Duncan's second Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week honor of the season, after also being named the Special Teams POTW after going 4/4 on field goals in Iowa's narrow win over Iowa State in September. Overall, this is the third time Duncan has earned Special Teams POTW honors, after also being honored after hitting the game-winning field goal in Iowa's 14-13 win over Michigan in 2016.
As we've said on more than one occasion, it's not great that Duncan has had so many field goal opportunities this season because it's meant that Iowa's defense has bogged down and been able to score touchdowns. That's certainly a problem for Iowa overall, but all Keith Duncan can do is convert field goals when he gets the opportunity. And that's precisely what he's done very, very often this year -- more than any other kicker in a single season in Big Ten history, for that matter.
Duncan is Iowa's first Groza Award finalist since Nate Kaeding in 2003 and would be their first winner since Kaeding in 2002. Nate Kaeding: really good college kicker! The Groza Award winner will be announced live on the College Football Awards Show on Thursday, December 12 on ESPN. We wish Keith the very best of luck at that ceremony.